updated 10/17/2006 8:19:20 PM ET 2006-10-18T00:19:20

A jury convicted a man on Tuesday of murder for driving drunk the wrong way on a highway, slamming head-on into a wedding limousine and killing the chauffeur and a 7-year-old flower girl.

Prosecutors said Martin Heidgen, 25, drove his pickup truck more than 2 miles on the Long Island highway before ramming head-on into the limousine in July 2005. They contended Heidgen never tried to stop and turned slightly toward the limousine in the seconds before the crash.

Heidgen, of Valley Stream, had at least 14 drinks before getting behind the wheel; his blood-alcohol level, 0.28, was more than three times the 0.08 legal limit in New York state, prosecutors said.

Kate Flynn and limousine driver Stanley Rabinowitz, 59, were killed. Five other members of the Flynn family were injured.

Tearful scene
A scream echoed through the courtroom as the murder conviction was read, with several of the jurors in tears as the slain girl’s mother collapsed sobbing into her weeping husband’s arms. The verdict followed a gut-wrenching, five-week trial that was filled with gruesome images and testimony.

Jennifer Flynn, who testified about holding her daughter’s decapitated head immediately after the wreck, praised the jury for its decision.

“It was the right verdict,” she said. “I’m happy for that.”

Jurors, who deliberated for five days, saw a horrifying video from the limousine’s surveillance camera that showed Heidgen’s pickup truck barreling toward the car moments before the crash. It ended with the metal-on-metal crunch of the two vehicles colliding.

In closing arguments, Heidgen’s defense attorney called the murder charge “extreme” and suggested jurors return a guilty verdict on a lesser count of criminally negligent homicide, which carries a four-year prison term.

‘A kid who drank too much’
Defense attorney Stephen LaMagna complained that prosecutors held Heidgen to the “same standard as a cold-blooded murderer” but insisted, “this is a kid who drank too much and got lost on the way home.”

Heidgen faces 25 years to life in prison. The jury, which was sequestered on the fourth day of deliberations, had a choice of convicting him on the lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter, which carries up to 15 years in prison.

“Thank God,” said Keith Rabinowitz, son of the dead limo driver. “It’s about time. I’m glad that he was prosecuted and the truth came out.”

Heidgen also was convicted of assault and driving while intoxicated.

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